It is undeniable that doctors, nurses and paramedics are vulnerable to violence in Pakistan.
A third of healthcare workers in the country have suffered violence in the past six months, a survey conducted by the International Committee of the Red Cross has revealed.
A report prepared by an affiliate of the ICRC says between 1995 and 2015, as many as 198 doctors had been killed in Karachi city alone. This was a time when being a doctor had become a nightmare in the city. A newspaper report says from 2012 to 2014, about 130 doctors had been killed and another 150 kidnapped in Karachi.
Since 2011, as many as 40 polio workers have been shot dead in the country. When Pakistan was close to achieving a polio-free status, the incidence of polio has seen a sudden upsurge in 2019.
This year so far 91 cases have been reported, up from 25 in the previous year. In 2017, only five cases had been reported, a significant improvement on 2014 when 36 cases had been reported.
This is the state of healthcare professionals in the country when the state of health of the nation is anything but satisfactory. Malnutrition is affecting a large number of people of all age groups, especially children and expecting mothers.
This is leading to stunting in children. Doctors and paramedics experience violence on different occasions; for instance, when they are perceived not to pay proper attention to patients, lack of medicines and equipment in hospitals, etc.
Nurses face the issues of harassment as well as inadequate and delayed salaries. Nurses and paramedics at government hospitals are underpaid.
Speaking at the launch ceremony of the ICRC survey report, Dr Sania Nishtar, Special Assistant to the PM, said violence against healthcare providers may have grave consequences, and underlined the need for providing proper security to doctors, nurses and paramedics. Health and education are the most important things for a nation. We should give respect to doctors and teachers. Some introspection is in order.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 8th, 2019.